When I first sat myself down to pack my bags for a dual trip, I didn’t pack everything in the pack first. Instead, I decided to see whether I could put my Tetris skills into play by setting out everything I wanted to bring and figured would fit.
I have an excellent judgment of whether something can fit into something else. I’m particularly good at searching for an item to fit a particular spot. My skills came in handy when my father decided to create our driveway out of broken pieces of cement sidewalk. It was the ultimate test for my years playing Dr. Mario and Tetris.
Anyone who tells you video games can’t prepare you for real life is lying to you. Extensively.
As the true-blooded American who hadn’t traveled overseas since 2007, which was living in a dorm for six months, not moving around every couple of weeks to see the landscapes, I overshot the weight of my luggage. Everything fit, yes, but the amount of shit I placed in there was well over the limit allowed on the planes.
Several attempts later, I nodded to myself that I had all bases covered for whatever I’d be doing in the future. Swimsuit, sweaters, jackets, mittens, scarves, skirts, pants, dresses, and enough shirts to not have to do laundry for a week while having options.
“Surely,” I thought to myself, “I am the greatest traveler of all time. No one can tell me I am not prepared for those days I can go swimming, then take on skiing in the mountains.”
Then, I went on a two and a half month trek through France and Spain. Wherein I only had two outfits. Both were dedicated to the hiking through mountains and dirt roads stuff. I had only the basics of washing myself, not even the typical lotions I’d smother myself with after showers for both my body and face. I didn’t want the weight, and it was only after six weeks of walking that I began to add on a few extra enjoyments, such as a scarf or foot lotion.
Honestly, I had never had better skin or hair than when I only used water to rinse my face and a few outfits to choose from.
Needless to say, when I got back to my original suitcase I’d left behind, it was a bit like Christmas. I took a shower and lathered myself in new scents. I had extra toners and lotions for my face. The joy of having a choice of what shirt to wear the next day, though still limited, was the greatest joy of all. I’d always loved being able to express myself in my clothes, which sounds as if I wore the clothes from the expensive stores in malls, but, in all actuality, my wardrobe is that of TeeFury. It felt like home to be able to adorn myself in my nerdy references of Disney/Doctor Who, Star Wars, Firefly, and even Legend of Zelda.
I’d had a hard enough time not playing video games for almost three months, let alone not being able to talk about my hobby as most people who decide to go on a hike for over a month aren’t that interested in sitting in front of a monitor/television for a few hours to save the world.
Seeing these shirts felt like a right first step into who I am as a person.
Then I looked at the rest of my suitcase.
I’d packed myself a fancy dress for the off chance I did something…fancy. That was legit. And having extra underwear and good bras was another great addition on my part as hiking had ruined the ones I’d brought with me. I could even justify the belt (my pants were much looser now).
But after living simply for over two months, I’d found my priorities had changed quite a lot.
Traveling is a slight battle when one is trying to do it cheaply. There are heaps of things I do now that I didn’t consider doing prior to my trip, whether it be to keep costs low or for convenience sake.
Like, wearing the same shirt/pants five times before properly washing so you wouldn’t pay the $5-$10 washing/drying them later. Never minding a dirty sock or second-day underwear if one hadn’t walked (…if you wear underwear at all…).
I eat healthily, but my meals began to feel more like I was back at college: simple with cheap wine.
And I was also finally accepting the help of those around me, from food to advice. I was okay with talking to someone and having them pay for my appetizer or glass of wine, which happened with many strangers I met along the way. It actually helped to remind myself to give back just as much as I received, which kept the kindness circle going.
So, when I danced around my room to croon at my adorable shirts and colored tights and scarves I’d brought, I also stalled at the few items I now realized I didn’t need to travel with. Hair straightener; that extra skirt; that extra jacket; all of my facial lotions; that other pair of pants.
I stand by my shampoo and conditioner. Worth bringing that those beasts of bottles.
But even another four weeks traveling around, I’ve already forgotten what I had just re-found in my large suitcase I could probably get by with if I were to travel for a year.
It’s when I pay attention to those in the hostels around me that I think about what people choose to carry with them. I particularly noticed this on the Camino, but even those I’ve met who are traveling for seven weeks, literally jumping onto a plane every three days to get to another location to enjoy…
It is amazing to me what people find to be worth the weight.
There was a guy I met in Dublin who brought a hair dryer and hair straightener. He would painstakingly, after a daily shower, dry, then straighten his hair to perfection, only to pop it up into a messy bun seconds after completing his task.
There was another guy I met on the Camino who decided to bring his guitar, case (of course) included.
He did not carry this guitar on his back.
His larger backpack on his back, he carried his guitar separately in his hand.
Imagine that. While imagining me having a tiny ukulele strapped to my back instead. Up and down mountainous range. And they were calling me hardcore.
I met a couple of people who brought hammocks along.
Two people I met carried a medium sized bottle of olive oil and a satchel of their most used and favorite herbs. Only one of them was an actual chef in real life. The other was a food enthusiast. The chef was one of the people who brought their hammock.
Someone brought an entire camping set just for coffee/tea wherever they went, whenever they wanted.
Quite a few people brought their expensive cameras, the ones with several different lenses.
Where every kilo counts, it is amazing how much we’ll add to our backs in lieu of keeping that one thing with us on the trail.
Personally, what people gawked at for me was my Surface Pro 3. Just over a kilo, it was worth it to have something to keep up with the Jones’. I also had my phone, but I was writing on my blog when I could (hahahahahahahahahahahahaha xINFINITY) and imagine writing on a tiny phone with your fingers ten thousand word posts.
People used to think I was crazy with the amount of weight I carried on the trail. “How do you do it?” they’d ask, and I’d take a look inside my bag and shrug because, honestly, it wasn’t that much.
I find myself doing this while I see people come into hostels, now.
Someone brought in two-day backpacks along with the largest sized metal suitcase you typically put in plane cargo. I have no idea what this guy brought (he is maybe half my height and width), but I couldn’t imagine bringing that everywhere I went anymore.
There were two Australians I met recently who wore very eclectic outfits, from shoes to hair. I was very impressed; it made me miss my own wardrobe at home. Then they packed up to leave and they were wearing the largest bags I’ve seen yet, stuffed to the brim, their shoulders hunched as they walked out the door to catch their next flight. And I realized that I preferred the simple life to packing that every two days to my next hostel.
To be fair, I have added on to my luggage since finishing the Camino. I have a daypack I carry that quickly got heavy from the journals and pens I carry to write. I even brought my D&D dice. You never know when you need a certain die to determine a life event.
And then I brought the one thing that has helped me to stay sane, and that is my Nintendo 3DSXL.
How I missed not only playing games while walking the Camino, but I didn’t fully realize how much I’d miss connecting with random people on what I loved to do–play video games. Every time I streetpass someone along my walks, there is a sense of comfort. Other people are playing games, too, even if I don’t see them.
It has become interesting to be a month off of the Camino and to balance out how I lived while walking for two and a half months to having all of the conveniences but not using them just because I can. I was always frugal, but now I’m extra thoughtful in my purchases, particularly if I have to worry about lugging it around. I was happy to see the abundance of clothing I’d brought after the Camino, but I know now that I won’t be wearing at least twenty-five percent of it.
There was a joke I had with Katherine while walking the Camino. She had found a pair of white jeans at the start of Spain from someone who had gotten rid of half her pack at a hostel. They were fine until we got to the rainy season of Spain. Wet white pants tend to be a bit see-through. Every large town we got to, she’d say, “I’ve got to go shopping for a new pair of pants.” And I’d respond in my dramatic, skeptical way, “Do you?” And we’d make an “eeeeeeh” noise that meant we’d look, but never buy.
This is the epitome of my purchasing thought processes now. Can I survive with what I’ve got? Yes, I can. Do I need to see the view from this huge bridge for an extra 10 euro? Probably not. Is that rainbow, wooly jumper going to make my life better? YES, BUY THAT RIGHT NOW.
This lifestyle becomes particularly handy during the Steam Sale season, where one buys games just because they’re fifty-nine cents. Not this year, Steam. I won’t be needing your Euro Truck Simulator. Nor your random indie platformer. Nor–wait, is that a twenty-five game bundle with only one game I’m only kind of interested for $4.59?